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Session 7: Ceasefire Now! End US Backing for Israeli Apartheid; Make the Fight for Palestinian Rights an Integral Component of the Fight Against MAGA

BLOCK AND BUILD: Left Strategy in the MAGA Era

Statue of Liberty with banners at her base reading "Ceasefire Now" and "the Whole World Is Watching"

The Gaza crisis has had a huge impact on US politics. Foreign policy has long been the biggest division within the centrist and progressive wings of the anti-MAGA coalition.


Key Points

  1. The context to the current crisis is the conflict between the Israeli settler colonial project backed by Western imperialism vs. the Palestinian movement for national liberation. In recent major international and Israeli human rights organizations (Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, B’Tselem) have joined numerous Palestinian activists in categorizing Israel as an apartheid state. The far-right elements in Israel, now in government, speak openly of their desire to drive more Palestinians out of the country and formally annex all historic Palestine.

    On October 7, 2023, Hamas, which has governed Gaza since 2007, led a military operation which attacked Israeli military forces and civilians. Hamas’s killing of civilians and taking civilian hostages were violations of international law. But this is no justification for Israel’s much more egregious violations or for using these actions to smear the entire Palestinian cause. Israel’s actions are at genocidal proportions, as the suit brought by South Africa to the International Court of Justice indicates. On January 26, 2024, that court ruled that it was “plausible” that Israel was committing genocide and ordered Israel to take all measures within its power to prevent genocide, punish those inciting genocide against Palestinians, and take immediate and effective measures to ensure the provision of urgent humanitarian aid and basic services. Israel has not complied with the Court’s order.
  2. The Gaza crisis has had a huge impact on US politics. Foreign policy has long been the biggest division within the centrist and progressive wings of the anti-MAGA coalition. And US policy toward Israel-Palestine is one of its most volatile components. The Biden administration is Israel’s main international backer. The administration offers rhetorical nods to protection of Palestinian civilians and openly disagrees with Netanyahu’s vow to never allow a Palestinian state. But the administration is sending arms to Israel, rejecting even minimal calls for Congressional oversight, and defending Israel in the United Nations and other international bodies. Meanwhile the Republican Party, political home for Christian Zionists and white nationalists, is 100% behind Israel and a driving force in the campaign to silence all voices who support Palestinian rights.
  3. Opposing Biden’s stance is an unprecedented movement in both scale and breadth calling for a ceasefire and defense of Palestinian rights. That movement is strongest among Arab and Muslim communities and Black youth, but it extends to all other sectors, including progressive Jews, important sectors of the labor movement, and even significant numbers of Biden administration staffers. An especially important role is being played by pro-Palestine voices in Congress, where the leadership of several Squad members and others has rallied more than 50 Representatives and four Senators to demand a ceasefire. Within the broad ceasefire movement, there is a growing contingent who center Palestine solidarity and reject Zionism.
  4. Those mobilizing for a ceasefire argue that it is not only the right thing to do—especially for an administration that claims to be a supporter of human rights—but it is also crucial for beating MAGA in the 2024 election. The defense of Palestinian life and rights is a crucial issue for both organizers and voters in constituencies that made decisive contributions to the victories over MAGA in 2018, 2020 and 2022 and whose support is needed if MAGA is to be defeated in 2024.
  5. A major dynamic in US politics is that major pro-Israel groups paint people and groups that are harsh critics of Israel as anti-Semitic. They claim that opposition to Zionism is inherently anti-Semitic, ignoring among other things the long history of opposition to Zionism within world and US Jewry. Especially since October 7, progressives and radicals, including Jews, have made a priority of rejecting this framework. This is a crucial task, but other ideological initiatives are needed as well, including regaining the Left’s traditional role in the forefront of the fight against anti-Semitism. The forces who are backing Israel today include diehard anti-Semites: Christian Zionists who see Israel as prelude to a “rapture” when Evangelicals will go to heaven and Jews to hell, and white nationalists who see Jews as part of a “globalist” conspiracy to destroy America via “great replacement” immigration. And the Israeli ethno-state, supposedly a guarantee of Jewish safety, provides no such thing, as its dispossession and oppression of the Palestinians is a recipe for constant violence. It is those who fight for equal rights for all in racially, ethnically, and religiously diverse societies—including in Israel/Palestine—who are the most consistent opponents of anti-Semitism and whose program has the potential to provide security for Jews as part of providing security for all.
  6. On the electoral front, the next big battle will be defense of the Squad and all ceasefire Congressmembers who face primary challenges financed by AIPAC and other players in the Israel Lobby. Demonstrating the breadth and clout of pro-ceasefire, pro-Palestinian rights politics by winning this test of strength will have a big impact on administration policy, the 2024 election campaign, and the long-term fight to change the Israel-Palestine policy of the Democratic Party.
  7. The focus will then shift to the general election and the Presidential contest in particular. Because Biden has been adamant in enabling the genocide in Gaza, there are influential voices rooted in important constituencies who are saying they cannot in good conscience vote for Biden. The key strategic question is what outcome in 2024 provides the best conditions for a path to changing US policy on Israel-Palestine. Under a Trump presidency that path would be completely blocked. Trump will green-light Israel to do whatever it wants—indeed, Netanyahu’s commitment to continuing the war is in part an attempt to stay in power until a Trump victory (which he will do his best to bring about). Trump’s trajectory is to make Palestine solidarity work in the US functionally illegal, to round up and deport or put in concentration camps large numbers of immigrants regardless of their legal status; and do the same for left activists.

    In contrast, the Palestine solidarity movement has a foothold within the Democratic Party—all 50-plus ceasefire advocates are Democrats—and presidential victory by any Democrat, even Biden, would increase rather than decrease their influence. Sentiment in the Democratic voting base has been moving in a pro-Palestine direction, and the constituencies which are either currently supporting or in motion toward supporting Palestinian rights will mostly be throwing down hard to beat Trump, whom they perceive as an existential threat. These constituencies (labor, the major women’s, LGBTQ, gun control, environmental organizations, etc.) would have far more political space to operate in under a Democratic than a MAGA presidency.

Debates on the Left

There are differences over how to understand and relate to influential progressives—most notably Bernie Sanders—who are in favor of or open to putting conditions on US aid to Israel but who do not call for a ceasefire.

There is disagreement about working or voting for the Democratic nominee to beat Trump. There are parts of the Left who oppose voting for any Democrat for President as part of their disagreement with the entire Block and Build framework. Within the orbit of those who operate in general with a Block and Build approach (whether or not they use those terms) there are many working hard for a ceasefire who are simultaneously working on defeating Trump or plan to pivot to that priority after the primary season is over, no matter who the nominee is. Others say they will not vote for Biden if he is the nominee.

Questions for Discussion

  1. What are the prospects for winning the US government to press for a ceasefire? Who are the key political forces for and against? How has public opinion and the balance of forces in the US on Israel-Palestine changed in the last decade or two?
  2. AIPAC, Christian Zionists, and other right-wing forces are backing and financing challenges to pro-ceasefire congresspeople. How are these shaping up? What impact do you think the outcome of those contests can have on US policy regarding Israel-Palestine and the fight against MAGA? Are there ways available for you and people/groups you work with to play a role in these fights?
  3. What are the stakes for Palestine solidarity in the general election? What do you think the stance of progressives who are working hard for a ceasefire ought to be in that contest?